Canadian parents are more lenient with their children than mothers and fathers in France and Italy, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Montreal, the University of Rennes in France and the University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Italy discovered that Canadians are tolerant, Italians are demanding and the French are somewhere between the two.
"Our most important finding was the difference between Canadians and the others." said Professor Michel Claes, of the University of Montreal.
"Canadians focus on independence and negotiation. On the other hand, Italians, for example, have more constraining practices and exercise more control. We found Canadians seem to focus on negotiation in the case of conflict," he added.
Prof. Claes said Canada, France and Italy were selected for the study because they share important cultural and social factors.
"We chose French-Canadians because they share the same language as France, and originally came from France and share certain values. Italy was included because it was considered to have similar, strong, important family values," he explained.
The researchers, who published the findings in the Journal of Adolescence, examined the emotional bond between parents and their children by questioning 1,256 students aged 11 to 19 years old.
Canadian students reported less control and more permissive disciplinary actions, according to the study. Italian parents were constraining, stricter and more demanding and French parents were somewhere in the middle.
Prof. Claes attributes Canadian parents' perceived leniency to differences in education in France and Italy.
"North America has its own democratic and educational values, which promote individualization. Tolerance and comprehension are encouraged, and we exclude systems of coercive control. Italy, on the other hand, promotes respect of authority, control, and the need for permission," he said.
Children from all three countries described their mothers as warm and communicative. Italian and Canadian children had similar feelings about their fathers and reported high levels of emotional bonding. But French fathers were generally perceived by their children as being more distant and confrontational.
"We were surprised by this," Prof. Claes admitted. "It seems as though the relationships of French mothers with their children were becoming closer over time, while fathers maintain a form of distance and coldness that is more of a source of conflict in France than in the other countries."
The study also found that boys faced considerably more discipline from parents, who were also less tolerant of their sons' friend-related activities.
Prof. Claes suggests that male children were perceived by their parents as being more likely to engage in bad behavior.
"It's a universal observation that boys are often hyperactive, especially at a young age and have more troubles in adolescence. Girls are more internalized, and have more problems such as depression and anxiety. Boys are externalized. You would find this holds true even in Japan and China. It's universal," he added.